All-Star Game

The 2018 MLB All-Star Game rosters were announced yesterday, and like it is every year, there is extensive discussion over the decisions and whether they were right, wrong, fair, etc. The Midsummer Classic has been known as a game “for the fans” as are the other All-Star events in other sports. Thus, the fans are given the choice of who they want to see take the field, at least partially.

The voting system is as follows:

  1. The roster is 34 players.
  2. Fans vote on starting position players. Eight for National League and nine for American League (AL gets extra because of DH)
  3. Players, coaches, and managers will vote for five starting pitchers and three relievers from their respective leagues
  4. Manager of each All-Star team will fill out the roster up until 33 players
  5. The 34th spot will be down to fan voting amongst five players in each league
  6. Each team must have at least one representative

And because of this, you see numerous selections that leave you scratching your heads. Huge surprises that you would not expect to be featuring in the game after looking at numbers and others are snubs that deserve to make it.

Bryce Harper is the perfect example. He is starting in right field with a .218 average and an OPS that is on a constant decline after a strong April. The reason Harper made it is because of the weight his name carries. He is Bryce Harper, the generational talent that is looking to break the bank this winter. But he has been anything but, this season. But we have seen this before.

In 2016, the Chicago Cubs had five starters in the All-Star Game, even though three of them probably weren’t worthy of it. Addison Russell started at shortstop with a .731 OPS while Corey Seager, who had All-Star level numbers, was on the bench. Ben Zobrist started with a .855 OPS while Daniel Murphy and his MVP-level .985 OPS was on the bench. And Dexter Fowler, who was having a good, not great, season, found his way to starting as well somehow. This is all because Cubs fans made it a point to stuff the ballots.

And this year, they voted in catcher Willson Contreras, who is having a good, not great, season with seven home runs and a .838 OPS. In comparison, J.T. Realmuto, catcher for the Miami Marlins, who made it in as a reserve, has 12 home runs and a .919 OPS. And defensively, FanGraphs has Realmuto graded out as slightly better.

This is the problem with fan voting; you do not always see the best players anymore. The All-Star Game become a popularity contest where reputation carries more weight than production. Battles between large fan bases on which ones can stuff the ballots faster and more efficiently ensue. Because of this, the All-Star title has lost some luster.

But it’s not all on the fans; players have shown an inability to vote appropriately as well. This year, they have missed on selections like Jesus Aguilar, Ross Stripling, Adam Ottavino, Jed Lowrie, and Nick Castellanos, who should be going to the nation’s capital to represent their respective teams.

But they selected Joey Votto over Aguilar, even though Aguilar has 22 home runs and an OPS over 1.000 compared to Votto’s .862 OPS and eight homers. Ross Stripling was snubbed, even with having the fifth-best ERA and a 103:13 K: BB ratio in 89.1 innings, and better numbers across the board than Jon Lester, who was selected. But these two guys are relatively new to this stage baseball so haven’t gotten the same level of respect.

But the most criminal snub of all is Blake Snell, who is breaking out this season and has been one of the best pitchers in the sport during the first half. But he found himself missing out.

 

Instead, Jose Berrios of the Minnesota Twins made it. Berrios has a 3.54 ERA, 114 strikeouts, and a 2.2 WAR in 114 innings while Snell has the best ERA in the AL with 132 strikeouts and a 4.3 WAR in 116 innings. There’s no real comparison, yet the Cy Young contender was left off.

And this can be traced back to the most significant flaw of the All-Star Game: having one representative from each team. It’s understandable that MLB wants each fan base to be invested, but that hinders everything. You prioritize representation in favor of production. That is why a guy like Salvador Perez, who is hitting .213/.265/.376 is in the game. Because the second-worst team in baseball, the Royals, needed someone to represent them.

Because the AL is loaded with position players, the Twins more deserving candidates, Eddie Rosario and Eduardo Escobar, did not make it. And because they needed someone to represent them, Berrios was selected in favor of Snell.

Felipe Vazquez, a reliever for the Pittsburg Pirates, made it with a 3.38 ER, 1.313 WHIP, and 12.3 K/9 in 37.1 innings over Adam Ottavino from the Colorado Rockies. Ottavino has a 1.79 ERA, 0.917 WHIP, and 14.1 K/9 in 40.1 innings. But, the Pirates needed someone at the game.

There is no perfect system yet, but you can improve. And the best way would be to eliminate having at least one player from each team. Not every team deserves a player and has a player who is a star. The worst teams usually do not You would not be wasting spots which you can give to someone who deserves it more. There should not be any pity inclusions. The players would be better, and in the long-run, the average fan would appreciate it more because the All-Star Game will provide a better product.

Featured Image via Flickr/atn0197

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